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Memoirs of a Professional Worrywart

October 6, 2009

When I was about four years old, my father (USCG – love the Coast Guard!) received orders for Savannah, GA.  Upon arriving we stayed in temporary military housing for a few days.  It was basically a dorm, with a kitchen and sitting room shared by several families who each had their own bedroom complete with bunk beds lining the walls, off of the common area.

My three sisters and I had never experienced bunk beds before, and were naturally drawn to them (as all kids are to potentially dangerous things, “like moth to flame”).  My sister Carolyn, six at the time, quickly discovered the joys of bouncing up and down on the top bunk and began to do so with great gusto as all three sets of adults chatted in the kitchen.  It was at this point that the following legendary exchange took place:

Mom:  Robert, she really shouldn’t be doing that, she’ll fall. Would you get her down?

Dad (dismissively waving his hand):  She’s fine.

Mom:  Robert, she’ll fall!

Dad (in his naturally booming voice and in a very disdainful and condescending tone):  Oh Rosie, you’re such a worrywart!

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what happened next.  Yes, she fell.  Right on cue, the instant the words were out of his mouth.  Fortunately she wasn’t hurt, but the glares Dad had to endure from the other families for the next few days would’ve put Euell Gibbons off his Grape Nuts (“Ever eat a pine tree?  Most parts are edible, you know.”)

Now in fairness to Dad, Mom really did have a well-earned reputation as a world-class, A #1, capital “W” Worrywart.  In her defense, though, it clearly was warranted in this case.  Dad never lived that one down, and believe me, we’ve all gotten a lot of laughs out of the story over the years.

As a professional Worrywart, Mom was famous for informing us girls of the myriad emergency scenarios we might face in any given situation.  She covered it all, from forces of nature (lightning, rip tide, flood, earthquake, avalanche, allergic reaction to bee sting) to more dubious possibilities (quicksand, various exotic diseases, poisonous snake bite, coming into contact with a downed power line, malfunctioning escalator).  She also was famous for whipping extraordinary items out of her rather ordinary purse in order to deal with any remotely dangerous circumstance within 20 feet of her location.

But she trumped even herself the time she and Dad visited my sister and her new husband at their tiny (and very “vintage”) college apartment.  The following is absolutely verifiably true – there were witnesses:  The subject jokingly came up of whether or not their ancient microwave was putting out radiation or something equally undesirable.  I swear this is true:  Mom said “Well let’s just see!” reached into her purse, and pulled out a little hand-held Geiger-counter – stunning even Dad and my sister, hardened as they were to her preparatory prowess.

I still laugh when I remember the time she saw me off at the airport for my second summer season working at a fish packing plant up in Alaska.  My purse at that time was a big woven straw bag with long leather handles that I wore over my shoulder.  There was nothing to close the top, but my elbow naturally tended to keep it from gaping open.  Mom said, “You know, someone could reach right in and take your wallet out of there.”  I pooh-poohed her and told her I wasn’t worried about it.  Several minutes later as we walked through the airport, she suddenly held up my wallet and announced, “See?  I just picked it right out.”  After replacing the wallet with a  “Muh-ther!” I forgot about it and began filling out my luggage tags.  Suddenly she stood before me magically waving my wallet in the air.  “Look at that.  You didn’t even feel it!”  But she wasn’t done yet.  She got in one last parting shot that would have made Fagin proud as we hugged each other goodbye.  She let me take a few steps down the jetway before calling out to me, once again proudly waving my wallet over her head.

Despite her concerns, I used that purse for several years.  The only person who ever stole my wallet was my own nimble-fingered mother.

My Mom was the best.  She was a great mother and role model for all four of us girls.  Did she add another day or two to our lives with all of her worrying?  So far, no, I don’t think so (although she may have spared my sister the indignity of growing a third hand out of her nose due to radiation from the bad microwave).  But should an emergency occur on my watch, I’ll probably have a pretty good idea how to handle it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2009 1:19 pm

    Having grown up at the knee of a mom who earned a record 8 Gold Medals in Worrier Olympics I loved this post! my form of rebellion back then and since has been to develop a trusting optimistic nature. “We don’t need to lock the door.” “Take off the leash and let the dog run!” “Why lug an umbrella around?” and my classic (and I believe quite apt summation of everything that happens… “It will be fine.” I’m not particularly up on The Law of Attraction, but I’ve gotta say, “It all works out.” has worked for me.

  2. Bobby Israel permalink
    October 23, 2009 11:12 am

    Love this post and the story about your Mom repeatedly picking your wallet out of your purse. She picked your purse cuz she cared. ( :

    Mrs Bobby Israel had an aquaintence who had a son fall from a bunk bed, land on a chair. Seemed fine, but several hours later died from a lacerated spleen. Freak accident. Probably millions of kids have fallen from bunk beds ( Bobby Israel for one ) and not died. But ever since then Mrs Israel is freaked out by bunk beds. We even had one for our son for a while. But his ceiling was so low that he could barely turn over let alone somehow fall out. But she still worried and we eventually got rid of that bed with plans to get a different bed. After nearly one year my son continues to sleep on the mattress on the floor of his bedroom. He likes it. And Mrs Israel feels he is safe. So I guess it is not a rush for the new bed.
    ( :

  3. May 25, 2010 9:07 pm

    Oh, the geiger counter got me. So sweet, your mom.


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